Over the past few years I have heard my friends, media members and former players and coaches say the NBA is not as good as it used to be. I couldn’t disagree more. In today’s NBA, we have players that can shoot the three, rebound, pass, defend and block shots. The players are more skilled than ever before. As a Knicks fan, I see Kristaps Porzingis running the floor every night, blocking shots and shooting three’s at 7’3 tall.
Here is the Sports Whisperer’s Top 6 MVP Candidates
6) James Harden (Houston Rockets, Shooting Guard): Harden’s offensive game is off the charts. He is averaging 28.7 points, 11.9 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game. He continues to be one of the top players in getting to the free throw line and is shooting 83% from the charity stripe. “The Beards” Achilles heal continues to be his defense, although he has gotten better he doesn’t show a desire to grind on the defensive end. Houston should be a 5,6, or 7 seed in the Western Conference but under head coach Mike D’Antoni defense will never be a priority.
5) DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors, Shooting Guard): One could make the argument that the Raptors are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. The Former USC guard is averaging 29.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. DeRozan is a throwback player, he rarely shoots three pointers but he has a great mid-range game and he continues to get to the rim very effectively. He shoots about 9 free throws per game and makes 81% of his attempts. If DeRozan is in the lineup, Toronto has a great chance to win 50 games.
4) Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors, Small Forward): So much for the adjustment period. Durant hasn’t missed a beat with his new team. The former Texas Longhorn is averaging 27 points, 4.7 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting a career best 57% from the floor and 44% from behind the arc. The Warriors are going to win about 65 games this year and Durant has been the best player on the court night in and night out. He deserves serious consideration for MVP. The Scary part about Durant is that he will get better as the season goes on and he gets more acclimated with his new teammates.
3) Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, Point Guard): For years, the common theme was that Westbrook was holding Durant back, it looks like it was the other way around. Durant was holding Westbrook back. The former UCLA Bruin is putting up video game like numbers. He is leading his team in several categories. He is averaging 30.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 11.3 points and 1.3 steals per game. He is doing things that no point guard has ever done. My only concern is how long can he keep up this grind? He has got to be the best player on the floor every night. Victor Oladipo is averaging 16.4 points per game but other than that, they have no consistent offensive talent.
2) Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs, Small Forward): Night in and night out Leonard continues to be the best two-way player in basketball. He is the two-time defending defensive player of the year. Leonard is averaging 24.6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He has struggled from three-point range so far (shooting 38%) but that will turn around. He is shooting 92 % from the free throw line and should be amongst the league leaders in that department. Kawhi has no weakness in his game. The only negative for him, is that the Spurs never self-promote. If the former San Diego State star played in LA, Chicago or New York he would be a household name and in dozens of commercials. You won’t see a ton of highlight plays from him on ESPN but he is one of the most consistent players every minute of every game. Leonard is the best player on a team that will win 60 games.
1) LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers, Small Forward): The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are tied for the best record in basketball (13-2) and James is by far the best player on his team. It is one thing to be the best player on a team that wins 40 games but to be this dominant, on a star filled roster, is mind boggling. James is having his best season to date. He is averaging 23.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1 steal per game. James is in the roll he has always wanted to be in. He is the teams unofficial point guard. He is being the facilitator on offense and getting players like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving open shots. Not only is he the best player in the NBA he is the best leader in the league as well. He has been to 7 NBA finals with 4 different coaches and he is having his most complete season in his NBA career.
Stephen Curry: He won’t win the MVP but he continues to be one of the best point guards in the NBA and the greatest shooter of all time.
DeMarcus Cousins: 28.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He the best big man in the game right now and with good coaching could be a 30 point 15 rebound guy.
Anthony Davis: The Pelicans are 7-12 and will have to turn things around to make the playoffs. This is not AD fault he is proving that he is a legitimate superstar. He is leading his team in points 32.1, rebounds 11.1, steals 1.8 and blocks 2.8. Did I mention he is only 23 years old.
Kristaps Porzingis: If the Knicks make the playoffs it will because of Porzingis. Any player that can average 20 points per game with Carmelo Anthony on his team is a special talent. As predicted by the Sports Whisperer, when he was drafted, the 21-year-old will prove to be the best all-around player in last year’s draft.